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Chord progression help

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by jschwalls, Jan 3, 2012.

  1. jschwalls


    Sep 4, 2007
    Savannah GA
    Hey guys...

    here is a question for al the super theory guys...

    I am looking for a chord progression that guitarists will have a hard time soloing in pentatonic over..

    I have been trying to come up with something, but I can always seem to find a way to play pentatonic over it..

    It is going to be a joke in sorts.. all of the guitarists in my area are pentatonic ONLY lead players...

    My band plays a weekly gig and I thought it would be funny to jam on a chord progression that the "guest" guitarists will have a tough time soloing over.. HAHHHAH

    any help would be most... helpful.
  2. No matter what you choose, those types of guitarists will likely still play pentatonic over it, even if it sounds like total crap.
  3. Still it would be funny to pick a very simple, catchy progression with some extended bossa nova-type chords and a diminished 7th chord, and see what those guitarists come up with...
  4. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Inactive

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    You probably mean Minor Pentatonic ONLY.

    There are endless combinations of 5 notes that can make up a Pentatonic scale.
  5. I am all for musical challenges - but trying to find a sequence of chords to purposefully screw with people seems a little less than worth while.

    Besides, just because you might be able to put together a few chords where a typical pentatonic major or minor approach my find itself lacking doesn't mean a good player couldn't make it work. There really are no such thing as bad notes in the hands of a musician with a good ear.

    And really - how do you plan to check them? Are you going to tell them that they MUST try to play "pentatonically" and then laugh at them when they fall short - presuming you can even tell if they do indeed *fail* - which I assume would be defined by sounding bad - and who wants to be on stage while the band is sounding bad?.

    This sounds a lot like a bass player inferiority complex run amok. Do something that nurtures creativity, not deliberately tries to stifle it!
  6. jschwalls


    Sep 4, 2007
    Savannah GA

    I forgot to mention that most of the sit-in players are NOT good players but they think they are...

    as mentioned before, it is more of a joke than being serious...

    just trying to do something silly...

    Can't take a jam night too serious... lol
  7. It doesn't matter what progression you throw at them, gui****s who play minor pentatonic boxes over everything will persist in trying to make it work.

    Case in point - I play bass for a weekly jam. The singer/guitarist/leader plays a tune every week that he wrote that basically moves from Imaj7 to IVmaj7. He actually plays major 7th chords on it! The guy who shows up to play lead much of the time keeps trying to make minor penta boxes work on it. He keeps upping the distortion each week trying to make it sound better!
  8. Dazzare


    Dec 3, 2011
    Take a Jazz standard that just throws in a lot of Key Changes
  9. And then --- what are you guys going to be doing for harmony while he is playing over that impossible progression???

    Bad idea, move on.
  10. I get it but I just don't share you attitude
    about jam nights, jam night musicians or
    what sort of things you do to musicians for

    Don't get me wrong, I am all for putting interesting
    musical challenges on the table to see what you all
    can do with them - that's interesting and potentially
    cool - and that sometimes that might even be
    funny - but why waste your, and everyone else's time
    trying to make some guitar players sound bad or
    look silly.
  11. BillyIVbass


    Sep 24, 2008
    Gear Reviews Guitar World Online
    I think it's impossible to think of a progression that some sort of major/minor pentatonic box won't work. That's the whole point of the scale.
  12. jschwalls


    Sep 4, 2007
    Savannah GA
    yeah, I'm thinking the same thing..

    So I came up with a nice progression in Ab Phrygian, that actually sounds much better than I thought it would..

    Verse.. Abm.. A major..Abm... Gbm ..x4

    Chorus .. E..Asus2 ..x4

    My guitarist instantly recognized Dbm pentatonic...

    will be interesting to see what the others come up with..
  13. I'm with you here. Mixing things up to help push a guitarist (or horn player or whatever) out of their comfort zone, because you know they have the ability to go further is cool. Intentionally tripping someone up is not.

    If you do come up with this crazy progression, you better make sure you can lay down some chops around it as well.
  14. GeoffT


    Aug 1, 2011
    Your progression should be called G# Phrygian not Ab. The key signature would be the same as E Major which is a sharp key. It is also why playing the C# minor (= E Major) pentatonic worked over the progression. You can choose to call it Ab but then the second chord would need to be called B double flat Major.

    You wanted to try to stick it to him by trying to create a progression coming from more advanced theory than a pentatonic scale and he figured out what worked in real time without having to think about such things. Who stuck it to whom? And which approach worked better?

    Hint: if you want a progression that a pentatonic won't work over, don't use a diatonic progression. And don't challenge a man to a gun fight if all you have is a knife.
  15. jschwalls


    Sep 4, 2007
    Savannah GA
    MY guitarist is really good... no issue there.. looks like I failed at getting my idea across to you guys.. my mistake.

    thanks anyway.
  16. Buxtehude


    Jan 5, 2011
    The chords to Giant Steps. That should confuse them.
  17. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    You got the idea across, but you then failed to understand the responses.

    Re-read GeoffT's post.

    Do you understand his point about why your progression should be G# phrygian, and not Ab phrygian?

    Do you understand that all of the chords in your progression are diatonic to E major? And why the C# minor pentatonic works over that progression?

    Do you understand what Geoff means when he says, "don't use a diatonic progression" if you want a progression that a pentatonic scale won't work over?

    If you don't have a clear understanding of the answers to these questions, then you should focus more on your own knowledge than on trying to trip up other players.

    With that said, as others have already noted several times in this thread, there are countless examples of what you're looking for in the standard jazz repertoire:

    All the Things You Are
    [ Fm7      |  Bbm7      |   Eb7        |   AbMaj7   |
    | Db       |  Dmin7 G7  |   CMaj7      |     %      |
    | Cm7      |  Fm7       |   Bb7        |   EbMaj7   | 
    | AbMaj7   |  Am7  D7   |   GMaj7      |     %     ||  
    |  Am7     |  D7        |   GMaj7      |     %      |
    | F#m7     |  B7        |   EMaj7      |   C7(b13) ||
    | Fm7      |  Bbm7      |   Eb7        |   AbMaj7   |
    | Db       |  Dbm(Maj7) |   Ab         |  Bdim7     |
    | Bbm7     |  Eb7       |   AbMaj7     | Gmin7(b5) C7(b9)]
  18. jschwalls


    Sep 4, 2007
    Savannah GA
    yes sir.. I understand the basic theory side of it...

    I was just looking for a simple progression to spice things up on jam night and to put some of these guitarists into a situation where they actually had to think about what they were playing for once.

    They like to make themselves look good by turning around to me and my drummer and saying.. " hey follow me.. I will be playing in A.." Then they barf out a 1-4-5 rehashed progression.

    and when they say to us.. play something and let me follow you guys... I usually play some something painfully easy for them.. I guess I was looking for some jazzy progression.. some kinda cool 2-5-1 progression.. I am NOT savy in any jazz progressions at all.

    Jam nights are usually fun and I am friends with just about all the local players..

    Again sorry if my post came across as anything other than me looking for some progressions to spice up jam night and to put the guitar guys on their toes...

  19. @jschwalls - no worries, man. I get the spirit of your post and like GeoffT and Febs pointed out, there are many phrases you choose to use that reveal a lot about what's going on in the subtext - both in music theory and personally.

    In a nutshell, you are bored with jams consistently devolving into a hackneyed I IV V jam.

    The telling phrases, aside from your music theory malapropisms, tend toward condescension aimed at guitar players. Sure, we're all friends here and the occasional jibe made in jest is how friends communicate sometimes, but other times those little jabs are saying something about the speaker.

    What I got from your post was something I think a lot of us have felt at times - that you are musically frustrated.

    Follow Febs' and GeofT's suggestions - I'll add to that sit down at a piano, frame out chords and extended chords, their inversions and so on, how to move from one to the next efficiently and musically, find the hidden melodies, counter melodies, interesting harmonies and voice movement, and explore music theory. Look at the roles your hands play - left = bass, right = all those other chordal, melodic voices - see how they relate - hear how they relate.

    Like you are trying to do - start putting together some progressions based on your explorations. Looking for someone else to hand you a progression doesn't do you a lot of good other than give you something to do for the moment. You can explore chords and progressions on a bass - but it's far easier and in my opinion, more descriptive and effective on a piano. The literal, linear nature (and colors) of the keyboard makes understanding the musical intervals and their motion very black and white ;)

    Ultimately what it does is train your ears to hear intervals and go have a better understanding of what you can do musically.

    As the bass player you'll still mostly be moving the roots around - as you should - but in those moments when you get to pop your head above ground, you'll be able to contribute to the melody and harmony in a way that reignites interest - for you, the guitar players and the audience.

    Do that sort of thing at a jam. If your guitar player hears you doing interesting things musically (rhythmically, harmonically, counter-melodically, etc...) it should musically imply a ton of things he/she can do too - and even a I IV V can bloom into something that sounds and is much more complex.

    Most of all, don't let your frustrations turn you against your fellow players. Let it lead you deeper into music. That's it's own reward. If you only look at music from the perspective of playing your instrument you are limiting your view of the entire score. Some of the most fun pieces to play are made up of the most simplistic chord progressions - it's what people do with them that makes things interesting.
  20. Febs

    Febs Supporting Member

    May 7, 2007
    Philadelphia, PA
    Well, one of the most common things you could do to spice up a ii-V-I progression is to to use a tritone substitution for the V7 chord. So, for example, instead of playing Dm7 | G7 | CMaj7, for example, play Dm7 | Db7(#11) | CMaj7.

    Another thing you could try is to make a two chord jam, but make sure that the second chord is one that does not contain any tones from the pentatonic scale associated with the first. So, for example, if you are starting with a C Major chord, try something like this:

    CMaj7 | DbMaj

    CMaj7 | GbMaj7

    Cmaj7 | Bbmin7

    In each case, the second chord in the vamp is comprised entirely of notes that are not contained in the C Major pentatonic scale.

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